“We can use hardships like substance abuse, unemployment and poverty as an excuse or a stepping stone to greater things. The day you stepped into Bergzicht Training and Development, you decided that you are not going to be a victim of your circumstances.”

These were the words of Jeanneret Momberg, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Visit Stellenbosch and guest speaker at Bergzicht Training and Development’s Alumni Celebration Day as she praised the alumni for their tenacity and perseverance during the pandemic.

According to Renske Minnaar, CEO of Bergzicht Training and Development, the celebration was also about recognising the significant increase in the job retention rate of graduates who have been working for a year or longer.

“Before we implemented the unique Bergzicht Training and Development Model in 2019, our job retention rate was very low at 30%. However, a year after its implementation, which included intensive mentoring support to working graduates for up to 12 months of employment, the job retention rate in November this year of our 2020 graduates is now measured at 70%,” said Minnaar.

The 2021 event, hosted at Bergzicht Training and Development’s campus, was attended by 44 graduates from the NGO’s three advanced programmes – Child Care, and HWSETA-accredited Health and Frail Care, and the Food Service Assistant. Also in attendance were Bergzicht Training and Development’s facilitators, training partners, representatives from local businesses that employ the NGO’s graduates, as well as donors that include Stellenbosch Municipality, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Cape Winelands Municipality, and Remgro.

This year alumni from both the 2019 and 2020 advanced programmes were celebrated as the 2020 Annual Celebration Day was focused on honouring the health and frail care graduates who stepped up as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bergzicht Training and Development’s annual Alumni Celebration Day was first held in 2019, two years after Bergzicht Training and Development implemented its Development Model. The model consists of an unique value chain that promotes leadership and employability amongst the NGO’s beneficiaries.

Nathalie Skippers, a registered social worker responsible for Student Mentoring and Support at Bergzicht Training and Development, explained that the model makes it possible for the organisation to offer up to 12 months of mentoring and support that are offered to students while they are studying and continues after students have graduated and become employed. While graduates are working, Skippers also remains in contact with their employer, who acts as a mentor in the graduate’s first year of employment. The Student Mentoring and Support team has also made optimal use of WhatsApp groups during the pandemic to support students and graduates, share information and to share details of job opportunities for graduates who are seeking employment.

During the event, graduates took part in a lucky prize draw in which they were able to win prizes sponsored by Global Stay, Shoprite Checkers, Ackermans and the Le Roux family.

Six finalists were in the running for the top spot in the three advanced programme categories, with the final overall winner selected from the category winners.

“The criteria for our top achievers include their performance in the training programme as well as feedback from training partners and employers. This feedback includes areas like resilience, communication, independence, trustworthiness, achievement, friendliness and work attendance,” explained Skippers.

The top alumni and winners of each advanced programme category are (from the left) Christa Tieties (Health and Frail Care Programme category), Amanda Zanikele (Food Service Assistant category) and Yolanda Kiewiets (Child Care Programme category). Zanikele was chosen as the overall winner out of the three alumni. 

In the Child Care programme, the top achievers were Stephanie Smith and Yolanda Kiewiets. Kiewiets, who won the top spot in that category, received prizes that included a smartwatch sponsored by Ackermans and a Checkers voucher worth R1 800 sponsored by the Le Roux family. She completed her training at Bergzicht Training and Development in 2018 and is employed at Sonstraaltjie Early Childhood Development Centre in Eerste River.

The two top achievers in the Frail Care programme were Christa Tieties and Nozibele Mali. Tieties walked away with sport hook earbuds sponsored by Ackermans as well as a R1 800 Checkers voucher sponsored by the Le Roux family for her outstanding achievement.

Tieties is employed at Courage to Care, an NGO that provides home-based care services to the Eerste River community. Her supervisor, Sister Unity Engelbrecht, describes Tieties as an introvert, who is very passionate about her work.

“She treats her patients with love and care and she always goes above and beyond what is expected of her,” said Sister Engelbrecht.

In the Food Service Assistant Programme, the two top achievers were Esethu Qalinge and Amanda Zanikele. Zanikele, who won the award in this category, was also the overall top achiever across the three programmes. Her prize to the value of R6 000 was sponsored by Global Stay and includes a one-night stay in luxury accommodation for two people in Cape Town, a transport voucher, a visit to Table Mountain, a meal voucher and R500 spending money.

“My studies at Bergzicht Training and Development helped me grow as a person. It was a dream come true to study hospitality because I am an extrovert. I would like to thank Bergzicht Training and Development, my sponsors and my Executive Chef, Michelle Theron, at Hazendal Wine Estate, who saw my courage and passion for my assistant chef role,” said Zanikele.

“We, at Hazendal Wine Estate, are so proud of Amanda for receiving the top student award. She is a pleasure to work with and she is so committed to her job. Thank you Bergzicht Training and Development for giving her this opportunity,” added Theron.

Main photo: Overall winner, Amanda Zanikele (right) is hugged by the master of ceremony at the annual Alumni Celebration Day, Mr Hilton Andries.